Tag Archives: Yext

MeNetwork Aims at the One Stop Mobile Marketing Platform for SMBs

One of the most promising concepts in local are “Write Once, Publish Everywhere” platforms for SMBs. With local businesses needing to communicate more and more deals, new features and special events to their customers, it makes sense to get them on a network to reach more people with one effort.

Yext and Google’s “tag” networks really got the concept going. These enabled an SMB to self-serve a promotion (“$2.00 off tonight”) throughout a network. The tech has since been applied to a wide variety of networked features, including photos, videos and menus — all wrapped in a suite of marketing services.

They’ve also been applied to mobile, which enables more “on the go” activity. Constant Contact’s $65 Million + acquisition of SinglePlatform in June was a strong validation of the space.

The services are terrific, but they haven’t been an instant hit. Pricing has been tough. Is it worth $30 a month? $100 a month? Or should it be bundled in for free? So has the challenge of getting SMBs to pay for one more “value added” service.

Last week, we talked to MeNetwork, one of the more established contenders in the emerging space. The company is based in Boulder, CO and was started in 2010 by banking, technology and ad agency vets.

MeNetwork sees itself as an SMB promotion platform that provides a comprehensive set of “write once, publish everywhere” services. One of its differentiators is that it is pushing a dedicated MeNetwork mobile app in addition to white-labeling its services with strategic partners. It’s risky, but potentially rewarding.

The company also enables easy point-of-sale redemption of offers via QR codes and Bar codes (with compatible POS devices) — something that will make increasing sense as more smart phones are plugged in, asserts COO/CTO Craig Page.

While the service helps manage and process promotions for its customers, it is also mindful that many of them already work with loyalty programs. MeNetwork seamlessly integrates with them, says Page. The aspiration is for MeNework to become the central hub for all of its customers’ promotional activities.

Pricing has been set at $500 a year (approximately $41 a month). Sales channels include self-serve, local media and vertical partners as well as convention bureaus and downtown associations.

Visitors bureaus in New Orleans, San Francisco, and Austin are already actively selling. The New Orleans center sold 200-300 SMBs off the bat, says Page. The company is also working internationally with a division of European Directories in Austria.

Working with outside sales sometimes produces higher than expected churn, and MeNetwork initially saw annual churn rates at 52 percent (actually, pretty low in this area). Churn rates have fallen to 12 percent however, as the company worked to train its reps to provide comprehensive and consistent customer care.

Talkin’ ‘Tags’ with Yext CEO Howard Lerman

Yext’s Tags initiative is a big one, going up against Google Places with a broad (and “open”) network of 20 participating Internet Yellow Pages and online directory sites, including AOL’s Mapquest and Patch, Citysearch, Superpages, Yahoo! and Yellowbook.

Yext CEO Howard Lerman describes Tags as “full-time, real listing information” that will eventually go beyond simply updating text promotions. Future versions will also include deals and photos. “You can do a lot of things,” says Lerman.

All these things require businesses to take it into their own hands to update the tags. It won’t be a problem once SMBs see how easy it is to do, says Lerman. “It is a myth that SMBs won’t self service.”

As for pricing, Lerman explains that the $99 monthly fee has been designed to be split between Yext, as the host, and participating publishers. The fee, of course, is considerably higher than Google Tags, which are priced at $25 a month, which Lerman believes is being deliberately under-priced to facilitate an upsell to Google Boost.

But the network reach will be greater, and the ease of adding new publishers easily justifies the fee. If Google wanted to join the Tag network, all the merrier, says Lerman.

Meanwhile, the royalty share for publishers is based on “a complex model of usage,” with three tiers. A well-used Citysearch tag, for instance, might be in the first tier, while some smaller affiliates might be receiving third tier revenues. Any publisher that brings in the advertiser will also get a chunk of Yext’s host fee, adds Lerman.

For Yext, Lerman emphasizes that the tag initiative is an especially important one. The company’s business today is largely based on Pay-Per-Call services, which remains robust, he says. But revenue from tags should surpass pay per call “within six months.”

DMS ’10: Yext CEO Howard Lerman’s Top 10 Predictions

Yext CEO Howard Lerman, in the first of several keynotes at DMS 2010 in Dallas, says that “dozens of winners” will emerge in the local marketplace. Noting how fast technology has swarmed around local marketing, “it is basically the Jetsons we are looking at right now.”

Lerman used the keynote to throw out ten predictions. Among them: Directories will continue to drive the highest ROI for phone calls. He notes that Yext’s analysis shows that 562,000 calls made in January 2010, 113,198 resulted in transactions, for a ratio of 20.2 percent. IYPs such as SuperMedia’s ratio was the highest at 23.4 percent, which makes it 25.2 percent more likely to close than Google, he says. Google delivers a lot of volume, but “has the lowest likelihood of phone calls resulting in transactions,” he said.

Another prediction was that CityGrid will become the most important local advertising exchange. Its growth in phone calls in the last six months has been huge, he says. The average transaction ratio has been about 25 percent.

Lehman’s other 8 predictions:

1. Mapquest wlll become a key local discovery resource, leveraging off its 50 million unique visitors.

2. Patch is going to explode, and will have enormous synergies off of Mapquest, which is also owned by AOL. Patch already has 105,000 high quality listings.

3. Impulse buying will be hotter than ever, and Yellow Pages will seize a piece of the group buying pie.

4. Yelp will become the most important consumer resource tool, and will continue to spar with Google on how its content is used.

5. YP sales forces will grow revenues beyond advertising, with AT&T especially well positioned. Mobile website, rep management and video will lead the way, making up for the fact that “SEM is not high margin.”

6. Microsoft’s Bing will become second most important primary source of local advertising inventory.

7. The number of advertisers buying performance is going to peak. This growth won’t come from new advertisers; they’ll come from extracting more dollars from existing advertisers. The dollar spent will will rise. Eventually, one million advertisers will buy performance advertising, but we’re already at 600,00 to 700,000, he estimated.

8. Google tags will become the standard local advertising unit – a prediction that fits well with Yext’s imminent launch of low-priced YextTags. It is ironic that the company most responsible for performance based product will roll out flat rate product, Lerman noted. But Google sets the standard for advertising products.